Kabir and his team of Art Lords (Mudassar Shah/Asia Calling)

Asia Calling, Kabul - Eyes are always described as a symbol of beauty in art and eastern literature, but the two eyes painted on a wall in front of me in Shahr-e-Nau area in Kabul have literally beautified an ugly security wall. Eyes are painted as a symbol of monitoring corruption.

These “we are watching” eyes were produced by Art Lords – a group of young people who paint war-torn walls across the city of Kabul.

Kabir Mokamil is the leader. “We have been facing cultural and social problems in Afghanistan and art has never been used to solve disputes. But always ‘force’ is used to solve the disputes and issues in Afghanistan. Art is soft power and a tool to use for peace in the country.”

Kabir graduated from fine arts in Australia. He retuned to Afghanistan 4 years ago and realized the city had lost its beauty. He gathered some friends and together they have painting walls since June. Kabir says their message is clear: peace and clean government.

“We want to show that violence is not a solution. Bloodshed should be quelled on earth and corruption should be stopped too in our country since it breeds other evils,” he said again.

The latest report by Transparency International puts Afghanistan in the top three most-corrupt countries in the world. Omar Shafiri from Art Lords believes that art speaks a thousand words.

“I prefer to use arts, music and dance since these attract young people. We use what they’re most interested in to convey our message. And a lot of young people want to join us now,” Omar said.

High school student Nasir Kakar passes the walls every day. “The Art Lords group has taken away the ugliness of the walls with the strokes of their brushes,” he said, adding he saved some money from  his pocket money and bought cold drinks for them.

As self-funded group, Art Lords hopes to highlight social issues with their graffiti. Their latest project is called “the heroes of my city: the street sweepers”.

“Heroes in Afghanistan are always considered those who have weapons and arms. We want to change the concept of a ‘hero’ in our country and want to portray sweepers as heroes who clean the city daily,” Kabir explained.

Kabir also wants to invite fellow Pakistani artists to paint the walls here. Due to a recent bombing in Kabul, where Pakistanis were accused of being behind the incident, tension has been rising between the two countries. Kabir believes his project could be the perfect bridge.

“We want to bridge the Afghan and Pakistani communities and bring them close to each other. Art does not have boundaries, while politics divides us. People should exchange ideas, and art has the power to do it,” he said.  

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